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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, August 10, 2006

Warrior football practice heats up

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Tala Esera

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Confined to both the University of Hawai'i Lower Campus and a strict schedule most of the past week, the UH football team let loose yesterday.

For the final 45 minutes of what would be a 3-hour, 7-minute practice, the Warriors were allowed to pound away in two controlled scrimmages and a spirited one-on-one session between the offensive and defensive linemen.

"It's always good to get competition," UH coach June Jones said.

During the first four practices of training camp none was conducted on Sunday the team was divided, with the white-jerseyed offense practicing against the offense and green-shirted defense against the defense.

Yesterday, Jones allowed the offense and defense to mix it up. He also lifted most of the limitations on contact. The only restrictions were quarterbacks could not be hit, and tackling to the ground was a no-no.

"I was loving it," left tackle Tala Esera said. "I was getting into that feel. I was using muscles I don't usually use every day."

In previous drills matching offensive players against offensive players portraying defensive players, Esera said: "You don't go hard against those guys. It was good to go against the green jerseys (worn by defensive players). We could finish the play the way we wanted to finish the play, like we would do in a game."

The highlight was the drill in which a defensive lineman would try to pass-rush against an offensive lineman. The best battle was between Esera and defensive end Ikaika Alama-Francis.

"Everybody loves to watch the one-on-ones," Esera said. "I love to be in them, and I love to go against Ikaika. He's so tough. He has so many moves. Now he's bigger. I used to hate to go against him because he would use his speed to run upfield. Now he's bulked up. Now he can engage. He can do all kinds of stuff. It makes me better. He provides a good challenge."

The one-on-one drills were sandwiched between two scrimmages, each opening with matchups between first-string teams.

Colt Brennan combined to complete six of 11 passes for 110 yards. Two of his passes were dropped. He was sacked twice, and scrambled once for 10 yards.

The best play was Brennan's pass to Davone Bess, who broke away from four would-be tacklers for a touchdown. Offensive tackles Dane Uperesa and Esera and guard Hercules Satele were 30 yards downfield clearing the way for Bess.

"We have some of the most athletic linemen in the nation," running back Nate Ilaoa said. "People need to know that. It's no wonder that so many good plays come out. That's why our offense is always in the top 10 (nationally)."

The scrimmages also tipped off the seedings for the tentative depth chart. The apparent starters on offense are: quarterback Brennan; running back Ilaoa; slotbacks Bess and Ryan Grice-Mullins; tackles Esera and Uperesa; guards Hercules Satele and John Estes, and center Samson Satele.

Wideouts Jason Rivers and Ian Sample started in the scrimmage. But Ron Lee, who coaches the receivers, said the wideout positions have not been settled. Rivers and Chad Mock, who made a leaping catch and two diving grabs yesterday, are competing on the left side. Sample and Ross Dickerson are matched on the right side.

The first-string defenders are: nose tackle Michael Lafaele; ends Alama-Francis and Melila Purcell III; inside linebackers Adam Leonard and Solomon Elimimian; outside linebackers Tyson Kafentzis and C.J. Allen Jones; cornerbacks C.J. Hawthorne and A.J. Martinez, and safeties Brad Kalilimoku and Leonard Peters.

There are various scenarios when UH goes to a nickel package involving five defensive backs. Elimimian will be replaced by Michael Malala, Jacob Patek or Desmond Thomas. All are safeties. The other option is to use a cornerback as the fifth defensive back. Several are candidates.

CORNERBACK SET TO JOIN

If all goes according to schedule, cornerback Keenan Jones of Los Angeles will join the Warriors tomorrow or Saturday.

Jones was a second-year freshman at Compton (junior) College last season. In January, he transferred to Harbor (junior) College to earn credits toward an associate degree, a requirement for Jones to play for UH this season.

But the final summer school class he needed was canceled at Harbor. He took geography at El Camino (junior) College during the third summer session, meeting the AA requirement.

"It's been stressful, but if you want to be successful, you have to go through things like this," Jones said. "Nothing is handed to you in life."

FOR INGRAM, IT'S A SNAP

Jake Ingram can role-play as much as he wants, June Jones said, but "he is not a defensive end. He's a long-snapper. That's why I put him on scholarship."

Ingram joined the Warriors as a walk-on defensive end in January 2005. With Tanuvasa Moe starting at outside linebacker, Ingram was asked to replace Moe at long-snapper.

Ingram's accuracy, calm demeanor and quickness helped earn him a scholarship last year.

"I learned in the early stage, you can't win without a long-snapper and a kicker," Jones said. "Take care of those places. They're just like quarterbacks."

Still, Ingram often has position envy. "I consider myself a defensive end who long snaps," he said.

Jones said: "(Long-snapping) is an art, and he has the talent. If he gets serious about it, and works at it, he can do it at the next level."

NEWS AND NOTES

  • Elimimian and Patek did not practice yesterday because of "dehydration." Patek, in fact, was hospitalized Tuesday.

  • Sample is now wearing jersey No. 3. "That was my number in high school," he said.

    Bryan Maneafaiga, who will be a student manager this season, wore No. 3 last year.

    Wideout Dylan Linkner has switched from No. 86 to No. 81, Sample's old jersey number.

  • Slotback Jason Ferguson will not practice until Monday after "tweaking" his right knee during Saturday's practice.

  • Safety Erik Pedersen, who is recovering from a hamstring injury, also won't practice until next week.

    Reach Stephen Tsai at stsai@honoluluadvertiser.com.